My, but that Road to Relevance just will not go away!
Back in 1992 Williams presented the mighty FW14B with all the drive-by-wire imaginable that could have been gifted to the world for first generation driverless cars 20 years ago. If we want Road Relevance for F1 there it was, decades ahead of the main stream, with a bow on top. So how did the FIA pass these marvels of class leading technology? Naturally they banned them.
Modern ABS came from the World of Aviation (the Dunlop Maxaret system), as did carbonfibre. Moveable aero flaps, as seen on all current self-respecting super cars, have been banned in F1 for years. Throw-in the FIA banning the Mazda 787B's rotary engine mere days after the first Japanese victory at Le Mans (1991) and we have a serious record of burying technology, rather than transferring it to the road.
Paddle gear shifts...? Ah yes! Ferrari developed this for racing and then had the first road car to use them... and just how many of us ever bother with them on a public road...? Quite.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the delights of Federer making a stellar come back, and Bruce Springsteen peddling issues true to his soul, as he ever has.
Both have relevance to being fine humans who respectfully stand for what they believe in, and then give it their all to deliver their product to the world. They are respected for being respectful, hard-working humans who can be viewed as role models for many fine behaviours.
Honour and hard work lead into defining meaning and relevance.
So Liberty has delivered a boxing announcer (ummm...) and the FIA is delivering the "if you drink never drive" message to avoid a kicking from the European Parliament, which appears to increasingly exist to purely redistribute wealth from companies it hates into its own pet projects.
And Google, Apple, Tesla, and a host of other bit players like Ford, GM, and Mercedes are busy building on that fly-by-wire experience that F1 binned in the early 1990's to deliver us driverless cars.
At which point the business model will flip most dramatically.
Aston Martin has been our Marque de Jour just recently (or Marqee de Jour as Michael Buffer might say - Ed) . So I'm going to stick with the marque one last time for this dabble into dealing in futures.
Should our dear reader value the experience that is the Vanquish then one needs to drop an impressively large pile of blockchain or cold hard cash on the table, and then have plenty more of said blockchain resting within the cloud, or gold under the bed, to meet the servicing costs.
Or... in a brave new business model one joins the Aston Golden Wings Club. Oh yes dear reader. Those that think self-driving cars spell the death of all marques is rather missing the point. Percy Punter who is cost-driven will belong to the Hyundai (or more likely Great Wall) traveller's Club. Michelle Mobile will be working sixty hour weeks to maintain BMW Ultimate Club membership, while Petra Perfect will drop good hard blockchain on her Aston Golden Wings membership.
The Aston Golden Wings Club will provide various levels of membership. Governed by response time, and travel minutes per month supplied.
Goodwood membership will promise an Aston to your doorstep within three hours for 100 minutes travel time per month. Silverstone membership will have the Aston at your door within 30 minutes for 500 minutes travel per month.
Le Mans membership will have an Aston to your current location within fifteen minutes worldwide for unlimited driving each month. For a suitable club fee of course.
So while Percy Punter is tipping someone else's McDonalds wrappers from the back of his Great Wall driverless carriage, Petra Perfect will be relaxing in hand-finished leather, listening to twenty-four speaker perfection, and sipping Pol Roger (complementary with Le Mans membership) as she wafts into town for a spot of Yoga and Free Range Avocado.
It will all be perceived brand value, prestige and comfort. Oh and safety. Massive amounts of safety. Mercedes has already stated it spent over one hundred years keeping its drivers and passengers safe, its software will not have a moral dilemma when considering driving off a cliff to save the last lesser spotted marmoset rather than the treasured fee-paying passengers.
The future of cars is all brand. The Club Members (that's us in the near future dear reader) need to feel we are looking awesome when we arrive, we are getting our version of value for money, and we are so, so, safe.
But to be a member of the Aston Golden Wings Club we need to know it exists. We need to know it functions. We need to know it is safe.
Do we need road relevant F1 technology for this? No. What we need is brand awareness. And then what Aston needs is desire stirring in our hearts to send it our cash.
And in return we desire safe reliable service.
When your primary worries are (in order); surviving the journey; looking amazing; not spilling the Pol Roger; income continuing to exceed outgoings, then initial under-steer on turn-in, tread shuffle under braking, and snap over-steer on early acceleration all become issues of theory for Miss Physics and The Last of The F1 columnists.
FIA Road Relevance is nearly irrelevant now, other than providing motor loving directors with cover while they indulge their racing delight, and within a decade driving experience will be pointless. The biggest road safety issue right now is the driver in the loop. Remove the driver and we will all be far safer. And much as I love cars, motor sport, and driving, the safety argument is a strong, compelling and authentic one.
Remove the driver from F1 and we have no sport. Road relevance has long been a red herring. The rate at which it will be increasingly meaningless is about to go exponential.
Aston is a vehicle for those involved to make huge personal piles of cash, and to continue doing that they need a strong demand for the Aston Golden Wings Club when it launches. And to do that they need every Percy Punter and Petra Perfect to know they exist.
And as Percy Punter cannot afford club membership the fact he might well be seriously uninformed about Aston becomes far less relevant. Petra can afford cable TV, and any style of pay-per-view she fancies. She will know about the Aston club. As will anyone she wishes to impress.
Free-to-play games on mobile devices work on the fact that a huge number will play the free version, but a worthwhile minority will spend big to accelerate their progress within the game. It is the big spenders that keep the game afloat. SuperCell, the creators of Clash of Clans, have seen their company value go up several thousand percent within the last decade. That's a cool return.
Aston only needs a modest number of people globally to join its Golden Wings Club, and it will have a mighty cash flow. But first those potential club members need to know it exists. And then they need to value and desire the brand.
Hello Red Bull and mobile advertising boards. Hang the fact the engine is designed and built by a bunch of Brits working for Mercedes, with a sticker from China on the rocker cover. The Monied People Are Now Informed.
As driverless cars arrive, safety figures become amazing, and human-in-the-loop driving on public roads illegal, all will be well with the world's great motoring marques.
Those that love to drive will have club sponsored track days. The brands will have loyal club members. The politicians will have safety, plus a glorious revenue stream from the clubs not subject to the whims of the common driver failing to obey the posted limit.
We all win. Oh, except motor sport. What then? It either has to be a compelling advertising medium, or a stunning sport where road relevance is, well, irrelevant. Which to be honest is exactly what it is right now.
Someone pass me a Martini and a tissue. I need to weep as the sun sets for the passing of an age in Formula One that actually never existed. But wait, each sunset in the West, is someone else's sunrise in the East. So this really is the dawn of new possibilities.
So chin up, and smile anew. The Road Relevance of F1, and the FIA, will be to ensure suitably monied fans are aware of, and have a desire for, manufacturers motoring clubs.
Make that Martini shaken, not stirred, and I'll take the Aston, in Silver, thank you.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here